VCT Tile Installation Tips – Six things they don’t tell you on the instructions.

Our prior post was an overview of encapsulating “cutback” adhesive which was leading toward installing a VCT tile floor. For those who don’t know, VCT stands for Vinyl composite tile.  You will see me write about “VCT tile” and I know that it is redundant, but I am going to write it that way so that the many people searching on VCT Tile can find our useful installation tips.  As mentioned in the prior post (http://www.wnyhandyman.com/encapsulating-cutback-tar-like-adhesive/) I did lay down a second coat of the “Ardex Feather Finish” and it came out nice and smooth with a simple 10″ drywall knife.

The following are not so much instructions, but a nice guide from someone who is laying down VCT for the first time.  There are many flooring options out there (Vinyl Plank Flooring) but I decided on the VCT since it is very durable and comes in many colors (Actually, my wife wanted these tiles. End of story).

  1. Prep your area.
    If you want a professional looking job, you should take the time to pull up and molding that you can reapply and then use to cover your exposed edges. Generally, I will pull up the shoe molding when installing any flooring product.  This 1/2″ to 3/4″ fudge factor can be nice.    You should also take the time to undercut your door jambs so that you can slip your tile underneath.  If you know someone who did their own vinyl or laminate floor, take a look at the areas around the door jamb.  This will tell you if they took the time (or put in the effort) to prep the area and do a good job.
  2. Work on your layout.
     
    The layout of your floor is one of the most important aspects of your project.  A bad layout is a sure sign of an amateur.  Having a full tile at one end and a 1″ piece at the other end is not the mark of a pro.  Many will suggest that you split the difference between walls. However, sometimes an obstacle can get in the way that might alter that plan. A shower pan, for example, might fall in the middle of the floor and you won’t want that item to have the 1″ sliver alongside.
    Take your time and do a dry run.  You don’t have to do the entire floor. In most cases, you can just do a cross on the floor. This will show your layout along each wall and will allow you to run up to any obstacles (see photos above).
  3. Cutting of tile (TIP)
    When cutting VCT, I found suggestions that helped.  A straight cut is simple. Score the piece, turn over and snap the tile. Piece of cake.  When cutting a curve, or an inset shape on the tile, it wasn’t as simple. Some will suggest that you heat the tile with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the material and then cut through with your razor knife. I found this to be trouble since it burned through blades and allowed for error.  Rather than using the razor knife for these cuts, I used a jigsaw with a fine blade. This was a simple solution and worked incredibly well (No thrust on the saw, high speed, and slow through the material for best results).
  4. Clean the surface thoroughly.
    Many will vacuum up a floor and call things good.  If you prepped the area by pulling the shoe molding and then undercut your jambs, reach down and sweep your hand across the surface.  It is probably covered with some loose grit.  Take the time to do a quick sweep with a slightly damp cloth to get a clean surface.  This can make a difference in the long run.
  5. Apply adhesive with u-notch trowel.
    We are living in a funny time.  I purchased my VCT adhesive at Home Depot. Naturally I assumed that the instructions were on the tub.  Not the case. They refer you to the web site to locate the application instructions and the recommended notched trowel.  Not only that, but they don’t give the specific page. They just say “go to Henry.com”.  My grandfather would have been ticked at that!
    If you are using the same product that I did (Henry 430 Vinyl Adhesive), you can locate the complete application instructions on the following page:
    Henry 430 Installation InstructionsTo save you some time here is the recommended notch for the Henry 430 adhesive for VCT

    For extended coverage:
    U-Notch
    1/32” D x 1/16” W x 5/64” A
    250-300 sq. ft./gal.
    (28-33 sq. yd./gal.)
    For longer working time over concrete and wood:
    U-Notch
    1/16” D x 1/16” W x 3/32” A
    150-250 sq. ft./gal.
    (17-28 sq. yd./gal.)
  6. Let set for at least 90 minutes, perhaps more. (TIP)
    The set time will vary based on humidity.  The key thing to remember here is that it should be tacky to the touch and the material should not stick to your finger.  I made 2 rookie mistakes with my first VCT job.  Too little set in room 1 and too much set in room 2.In my case, I set the timer for 90 minutes and went to town when it rang.  It was 90% humidity out so the glue was not ready for the application. Because of this, it was very loose and my tile moved a LOT when standing on.  This was messy, and required quite a bit of adjustment to get a decent looking job.  It was messy since the tile would take up the adhesive  with movement and then that adhesive would squeeze up through when the next tile was placed alongside.

    In my second room, I let the adhesive set for too long.  I was not going to make the same mistake twice.  Even though the tile was nice and tacky (this adhesive is workable for many hours) it would not allow for movement once a tile was set.  Your first tile set would need to be very near perfect… sort of.  Read on>

  7. Place tile carefully and don’t apply pressure until you are certain it is in place. (TIP)
    When I placed the first tile in room 2, I naturally applied pressure to set it up.  After my loose tile experience in room 1, I was going to be sure to set it as well as I could and then make my slight adjustments.  My excessive setting time did NOT allow for this. Luckily my setup was close enough to be good.
  8. Have warm soapy water nearby for clean up. (TIP)
    If you do have some glue squeeze up through, clean up immediately with warm soapy water.
  9. Have mineral spirits nearby for the clean up that you missed. (TIP)
    If you miss some spots on the floor, you might want to sweep a slightly dirty rag over the surface to reveal any leftover adhesive. If it is not coming up with the soapy water, use a bit of mineral spirits.  You should be able to get it up with mineral spirits for at least the first 24 hours.
  10. Get over it! (TIP)
    We all make mistakes when completing a project.  They can be major or minor and you will probably treat them about the same.  This is simple human nature for most people who care about doing a good job.  You are reading this, so I know that you care about doing a good job.  I am sure you have heard this before “no one else will notice it”.  What’s done is done.  Move on to your next handyman project.
VCT Flooring Tile Project - After

Good luck with your own VCT flooring job!

Video Demonstration of VCT Tile Installation: